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World Water Day 2012

A boy is silhouetted against the setting sun while arranging bottles of drinking water for sale along Karachi's Clifton beach.

This year's theme is "Water and Food Security."

The United Nations has designated March 22nd World Water Day to focus attention on the importance of fresh, clean water and to advocate for the sustainable management of fresh water resources. This year's theme is "Water and Food Security."

Almost one billion people — one seventh of the world's population — suffer from chronic hunger, a crisis that could intensify as global population grows. More than 70 percent of the water used globally goes towards agriculture – with totals reaching more than 90 percent in many developing countries.

Our ability to increase food production will require sufficient available water and the tools to predict its availability so that people can grow food when and where they need it.

Seven billion people live on this planet, with another 2 billion predicted by 2050. Each one of us daily drinks two to four liters of water, but we consume much more as part of the food we eat. It takes around 1,500 liters of water to produce a kilo of wheat – ten times that for a kilo of beef.

Women and girls produce 60-80 percent of food in developing countries, and also typically bear primary responsibility for meeting their families’ water needs. It is critical that they be involved in addressing the water challenges in their communities.

As urban populations and economies increase, so do water demands for cities and industry, leaving less for agriculture. Competition is increasing. Stiffer competition for water can mean less water for smallholder farmers, fishers and herders who cannot make a living without it.

Food security is critically dependent on a sufficient supply of clean water. We must make it a priority to reduce water pollution. We must develop more efficient irrigation practices, eliminate leakage, and ensure water storage and distribution functions properly.

We also need to protect the purity of water resources and wetland systems that support fisheries, which provide a significant source of protein to two-and-a-half billion people in developing countries.

This means prioritizing water and sanitation in national development plans and strategies and providing budget support to meet these goals. Communities and governments should work towards meeting the basic needs of their people to attain food security.

We need to work to both increase supply through better water resources management and reduce demand for water by employing more efficient irrigation technology. We must work together – individuals, communities, and governments. Water scarcity is a global challenge, but the solutions are often local.